Saturday, July 17
Last night while Matt was tenderly whispering dirty words in my ear, the thought of Milt's missing cuff link began to gnaw at me: What if Matt finds it? This didn't prevent me from wanting more of Matt, and my perilous secret made me both nervous and wet. After I came, I felt soft, warm and vanquished. Not at all like my working orgasms, which are simple, friendly -- silent.
This morning, while he was showering, I peeked under the armoire, and found, to my shame ... a handful of dust balls -- no cuff link.
In the mail was a bright red envelope without a return address -- a Snoopy card with a very Allison-like P.S.: "I hope I'm not in the doghouse for being out of touch!! You know how much our friendship means ..." She proposed Sunday coffee at Starbucks -- alone.
Sunday, July 18
Last night, I stayed in with Matt and watched "Splash." I couldn't help getting all teary when Madison's mermaid scales were brutally exposed, her cover entirely blown. "You're such a girl, aren't you?" he said, stroking my hair. I fell asleep in his arms, on the couch, thinking, if I were a mermaid ...
Allison showed up at Starbucks, wearing Birkenstocks and a short blue gingham dress -- she said she'd been at a church service in the West Village. I complimented her on the dress and was ready to tease her about the Birkenstocks -- but her eyes filled with tears.
"Everything is wrong!" she whimpered, hurriedly groping for her dark glasses.
I obtained a stack of napkins for her and urged her to tell all at minimum volume. A few coffee drinkers were staring.
"I'm addicted to this -- this thing -- and so are you," she sputtered. "And men like Jack are part of the problem."
"Jack? Most of us would happily steal Jack from you if we could get him as a regular but we can't. He called the other day, you know. He's practically in mourning because your number's disconnected!"
This reminder of Jack's devotion made Allie sit up. She slid her sunglasses over her long hair, headband style, revealing brighter eyes. "Really, what did he say?"
I shrugged. The last thing I wanted was to get into a he-said, she-said between Allison and her favorite regular. "Where are you living?"
"I can't go back to 85th Street," she said. "There's a subletter."
Through chokes and sobs, she explained that when her boyfriend Zack began talking about getting a place in Massachusetts, she subleased her apartment for four months, and took cash up front for the entire sublet in exchange for a discount.
"I wanted to start my life over because of Zack -- but he made me feel dirty." She blurted that out, loud enough for a guy at a corner table to glance up from the latest Barron's. "He keeps telling me, 'I can never trust you after what you've done.'"
"What have you done?"
"Well, when I first told him about the business, he wanted to help me recover from my addiction. He said all sex addiction was the same, I was no worse than him. Then, because I slipped once -- just before I left town, you know? -- with Jack, actually ... he couldn't forgive me ... We were staying at his parents' cottage in Massachusetts -- while they were in Scotland. We cooked together every day -- he's a wonderful cook, you know ... But then one night he started calling me a whore. He started telling me how no man in his right mind could ever love me and he refuses to have sex!" she said in a loud, horrified whisper.
"Where did you find this nut?" I asked her.
"Sexaholics Anonymous," she said, sniffling. "Now he says we can't ever have sex again because it just feeds our addiction ... but another sex addict is the only person who can really understand him. He needs me."
"I brought your book," I said, reaching into my tote bag. She stared at my bag as though its contents were alive. "Allie, I can't throw your book away. None of the other girls would trust me."
"You're still caught up in the addict's value system," she muttered.
"Stop talking nonsense! Your book's worth money, you built it and if you want to burn it or shred it or whatever, that's up to you. Not me."
Allison stared off stubbornly. Randy, the trainer from the health club, waved at her. She smiled back.
"Stop flirting with Randy," I hissed. "We have business to discuss. Do you want to stay at my place while we get your life back together?"
She looked uncomfortable. "Look, I'm not judging you," she said, "but if I stayed with you I might slip. I'm not trying to tell you how to deal with your addiction ..."
I was ready to strangle her. "Where are you sleeping? Not at Zack's place, I hope."
"Oh, no," she said. "Janelle, my PA sponsor, is letting me sleep on her couch until I get a job."
"PA sponsor? Is that like the negative version of a madam?"
"She's the human glue that keeps the New York branch of Prostitutes Anonymous intact."
"Janelle ..." I racked my brain. "Isn't that the girl who went to Paris to get a facelift?"
"Well, no, she never worked in our circles, she ... says it doesn't matter whether you work on the street or in your apartment -- we're all damaged."
"Allison, if you really feel this way, you have to take your book and get rid of it yourself," I said.
"I can't," she said, in an edgy voice. "If I take it back I'll start working again."
"Because of your, uh, addiction?"
"Because of where I am in the recovery process. I'm just not ready."
"Then why don't we sell your book? You'll need money. There's a new girl in town," I said. "April's blond, like you." Not like you, I thought -- more sensible. "So she could easily work your book. And she'd love to have an opportunity like this -- you know how hard it is to get settled in a new city." But you don't, I thought, because you've always had it easy. Allison walked right into being a private call girl without ever working for an agency, without paying her dues. And for the first three years that she was working, she received an allowance from Mom and Dad.
"If I sold my book to her, I'd be enabling her addiction. Don't you see?"
"You might be addicted but the rest of us have to work for a living." I sighed. "Look, I don't want a cut, I just don't want it sitting in my apartment doing nothing." As I spoke these words I remembered the pushy guy who had supposedly called on Allison's recommendation. "Did you give my number to a guy called Tom Williams? He says he knows you."
She frowned, shaking her head. "No, never heard of him ... but maybe I'm starting to let go! Maybe all those memory banks of all those men's names are finally being used for something better." Her eyes opened wide -- a little too wide.
"You shouldn't let your book go to waste," I said, trying to reach Allison's reasonable side. "I'm concerned about what you'll do when the cash from your subletter runs out."
"Please throw it away," she begged. "I can't deal with it. You'll do that for me if you're really my friend."
"If I destroyed your book, I would just be your co-dependent!" I said in exasperation, slamming the book on the table.
I got up to go. Allison grabbed my bag so hard that it fell off my shoulder and I lost my balance, bumping into the table. My chair clattered to the floor.
"It's not fair!" she cried out. "How can you leave me like this? You're supposed to be my friend!"
Allison was shaking with tears, trying to stuff the envelope into my tote bag. A startled girl in a Starbucks uniform was eyeing us from behind the till. She signaled to a stocky male colleague -- the unofficial Starbucks Bouncer? I had to get out of there before we were thrown out.
"It's OK," I said to Allison in a low voice. "I'll -- can I have my bag, Allie? Let's go ... please calm down."
Out on the sidewalk, I tucked the book away and zipped my bag shut. Allison became contrite.
"Can I drop you somewhere?" she asked.
"No," I said, "but we won't talk about work if it bothers you. What's your new number?"
She stopped and stared at the sidewalk. "Janelle doesn't want any of my friends from the business to be able to call me," she said quietly. "I'm breaking the rules just talking with you now. Just promise me you'll get rid of it."
I walked home in a snit -- caffeine oozing from my pores. I stopped in front of a garbage can on 81st Street and pulled out the book. Six years of Allie's life -- in the custody of the Sanitation Department? I couldn't do it.